The Romance of Santa Fe and the Southwest

      Marcia Muth
            Ruth Laughlin, a New Mexico native, was born in 1889 and died in 1962. Educated at Colorado College and the Columbia School of Journalism, she spent a year in Europe before returning to the United States to study archaeology. She made several trips to Mexico and Central America excavating Mayan ruins. She also worked on a study of the Indians of the Guatemalan highlands.
            Returning to the Southwest, Laughlin became involved in both archaeology and historical research of the area. This led to her becoming a writer for the Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. She began to specialize in articles about the customs and traditions of Native Americans and Spanish-Americans and wrote two books that became instant best sellers and are now regarded as classics of Southwestern literature, Caballeros and The Wind Leaves No Shadow.
            Laughlin also wrote for many popular magazines and wrote radio shows for NBC. She was married to William J. Barker and later to Dr. Henry Alexander.
            Her book Caballeros was written out of a deep love and respect for her native city, Santa Fe, New Mexico and the rich Spanish-American heritage of the town. Laughlin researched the history, culture and customs of the area and her account starts with the first travelers in the sixteenth century and continues through the first part of the twentieth century.
            There was the time when Santa Fe was the last stand of Spain in North America. This was followed by a few years of rule by Mexico that ended with the conquest of the territory by the United States.
            She writes with a unique understanding of the daily lives of the Spanish-Americans who learned to blend old country ways with the limitations of the new land. Laughlin covers every possible aspect of life including religion, food, clothing, architecture, social and family life.
            Can a book, first published in 1931, still be relevant in the twenty-first century? Yes, when it is well-written and packed with facts that are still important to know and understand. The past is the framework for the present. Laughlin said, “Modern Santa Fe is the City of Contrasts. Every day the newest bumps into the oldest.” Those sentences still describe the current city.
            This facsimile edition has an added chapter that Laughlin wrote when the book had a new edition in 1945. She was asked about changes in the city since she had first written the book and she remarked that while there had been some changes, the basic fabric of the city had not been torn away or ripped.
            Adding to the charm of the book are the illustrations by the Southwestern artist, Norma Van Sweringen.